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Lowell is progressing

His next steps are sprinting, hitting

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / July 10, 2009
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Mike Lowell is feeling pretty chipper these days. No small point.

It’s Lowell’s health or lack thereof that will likely determine whether the Red Sox trade for a hitter. The Sox will have many options if Lowell can’t return to form. But if he can - Lowell was enthusiastic after hitting off a tee yesterday - the Sox won’t need to deal prospects to bring in a slugger.

The Sox have been scouting several hitters, including Victor Martinez, Garrett Atkins, Chad Tracy, Nick Johnson, and Mark Teahen. They would pull the trigger on a corner infielder if Lowell shows signs he can’t last once he returns after the All-Star break.

Lowell will start sprinting and face live batting practice today, the next steps in his recovery.

“I think I’m going to hit outside [today],’’ Lowell said. “That’s kind of the course they mapped out at the beginning so, we’ll see. I still have my fingers crossed. I’ll see how I react after [today] because that will be real swings. I know when I’m walking during the day how it feels taking a step here and there. I was told by the end of the week I’d be feeling a lot better and here it is Thursday and I feel great.’’

Lowell is glad he went on the disabled list, but said, “If it was September after the shot and we needed these games I’d have played. I don’t think I would have felt as good as I do now, but under the circumstances it was the right decision. The fact we’re stealing four more days and not missing games, I think all of those things were in my favor.’’

The running will be the big thing today.

“The impact of running is what tends to affect everything else,’’ he said. “I think they wanted to see me fielding a ball and they did that. They wanted to see how I made the throw and I did that fine,’’ he said.

Halladay on hold
The Sox scouted Toronto ace Roy Halladay in Tampa yesterday, but as of last night they had not phoned the Blue Jays expressing interest.

The Sox could get into the bidding given their resources and the number of prospects in the system. But right now Boston does not appear to view Halladay as a major need though his name will be discussed in organizational meetings over the next couple of days.

Knuckling under?
Tim Wakefield would be flattered but he doesn’t think he’ll be considered for the starting role in the All-Star Game. One issue is going to be the comfort level Joe Mauer or Martinez has catching the knuckleball.

Mauer said he was a little nervous about catching Wakefield.

Mauer told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “I’d rather be hitting against it than catching it. If you swing and miss it’s not a big deal, or not that big of a deal. I’m bringing my glove along, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ll do my best, but we’ll see. I’ll probably be pretty nervous.’’ Mauer catches knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with the Twins, which should help.

Wakefield laughed about Mauer’s concern but understood it.

First things first
Rocco Baldelli has never played a major league game at first base but it looks as if he may soon. Yesterday, Baldelli worked out at first base with coaches DeMarlo Hale and Brad Mills. It seems inevitable Baldelli will draw the assignment, considering his athleticism. Baldelli has not taken ground balls at first base in practice since he played for Tampa Bay last season. The Sox are downplaying Baldelli’s presence there . . . Jed Lowrie could return to the major leagues by July 18 in Toronto. Lowrie was optioned to Single A Lowell Wednesday but last night played for Pawtucket. “The best-case scenario was to option him [Wednesday] so we could get him back in 10 days,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “That’s when we think he’ll be ready to play.’’ Francona said a couple of rainouts and a “banged-up’’ right knee set Lowrie’s rehab stint back. Lowrie was supposed to return at the end of the week but the Sox felt optioning him would buy them more time. Then comes the roster issue of who goes when he returns? The obvious possibility would be to do something with veteran shortstop Julio Lugo, who returned last night after missing Wednesday’s game because of a family issue . . . ESPN’s Peter Gammons reported on Twitter that Dustin Pedroia could miss the All-Star Game if he needs to be with his wife, who is hospitalized during her pregnancy. Francona said he hadn’t heard the report but didn’t discount the possibility. “Obviously, he wants to play, but his wife is going through a serious time right now,’’ said Francona. “If he needs to miss that time to be with her, then he should do that.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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